Guilt

Is guilt good? Is shame bad? Some people assert that both statements are true, even self-evident. I think these arguments are misguided and would like to argue that the people making such statements are looking at the situation through the wrong lens. Much of our emotional vocabulary comes from folk wisdom about emotions, a lot of which is mistaken. Guilt is an example. It’s a linguistic category that doesn’t represent a single emotional state. Other linguistic categories also sometimes cover more than one emotion. Two ready examples are disgust and anger. Moral disgust, sexual disgust, disgust caused by rancid smells, and disgust related to tainted food have different facial expressions and physiological responses. They excite different parts of the brain....

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Applied Dynamic Emotional Processing Theory

My counseling and psychotherapy approach no longer fits into the categories that are usually taught to graduate students. Actually, it never quite did, but the differences have become bigger over time. They’ve finally become too big to ignore. Over time, it became harder to fit what I did into a brief statement. When you say you practice Gestalt Therapy or CBT or Psychoanalysis, people know what you do. I didn’t have a catchy name for what I did, and it was becoming hard to summarize it in even a paragraph to people who didn’t know my work. Nevertheless, I taught my system to newer therapists, who found that it improved their work with challenging clients. They encouraged me to focus on training and supervising other young therapists. My career...

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Therapeutic Solutions

Blame it on Freud. When he started out, nobody else was asking the kinds of questions he ended up asking. People debated whether dreams had any meaning at all. Some folks thought there must be part of our thinking that wasn’t conscious, but nobody had figured out how to find out for sure. Nobody had discussed defense mechanisms or slips of the tongue. Then, Freud invented psychoanalysis, mostly as a method for studying how people were built, only secondarily as a method for curing his patients. Curing problems required years of steady visits to the shrink, and the results were often spotty. Patients learned lots of useful information about themselves but the quality of their decisions changed slowly, if at all. Quite naturally, this caused a number of reactions....

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Supervision

It’s been a while since I posted. A lot has been happening lately. I’ve been running two intensive therapy groups for violent adolescent offenders that have been taking an undue amount of my time and energy. I started outlining my second book, which will integrate the scientific data about emotions found in the first book into an effective, scientifically-based treatment strategy. I was selected to present a workshop on emotion-focused approaches to treating psychological trauma at the Texas Psychological Association’s annual convention in November. I’ve started outlining that talk, too. Soon, I’ll need to turn my attention to developing the PowerPoint for it. I went on a 17-day vacation to Alaska, which I found remarkable and exhilarating. However, I returned...

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Working Through

When I first started conceiving people in terms of emotions and defenses many years ago, I made the same mistake Freud had, many years earlier. I noticed that people who got better had expressed their emotions and assumed that there was something about the expression itself that helped them do that. Of course, that idea is nonsense, though it has a firm and unfortunate hold among both the lay public and an undeservedly large segment of treatment professionals. Venting (catharsis) alone does not work and cannot work at changing anything or anybody. There is a great deal of evidence confirming as much. However, I was stuck trying to write objectively, so my therapy notes continued to read “So-and-so expressed his sadness about his mother” or some such, and my...

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